​Best Apple Watch golf apps: knock shots off your handicap

Improvements to the Apple Watch now make it a great golf watch alternative
​Best Apple Watch golf apps
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If you're a golfer with an Apple Watch, your smartwatch is more than capable of doubling as a golf GPS watch.

Thanks to the myriad of brilliant Apple Watch apps, there's a host of options available. And the quality has now improved to such an extent, that only serious golfers and improvers need to fork out for a fully-fledged golf watch.

A few years ago when the Apple Watch first debuted we'd have never recommended replacing your trusty golf watch with an Apple Watch app. Tethering to your phone for a GPS signal was painfully slow, apps were clunky and frankly unstable, and it was just an unpleasant experience.

Sure, these aren't dedicated devices, and therefore getting a reading can be a little slower than on a "proper" golf watch – but our testing has now found them to be accurate and usable. So read on for our choice of the Apple Watch golf apps worth trying out – including our top pick.

Wareable top pick – Hole19

Hole 19

Our favorite Apple Watch golf app, it's the simplicity of Hole19 that keeps us coming back. We don't like to fiddle with data and apps on the course, and Hole19 does its job without fuss.

You'll get distances to the front, back, and middle of the green, and you can keep score on your watch as well – although we still fish out the iPhone app for recording putts and the tee shot direction, which is just easier to input while waiting on the next tee box.

The only feature we miss is a glanceable map of the hole layout, which has been added to the excellent Tag Heuer app.

The app performance has improved dramatically as the Apple Watch has got faster and better, and it's now a seamless experience that's a pleasure to use on the course.

You can also select whether you want GPS to be tracked via the Apple Watch itself, or your paired iPhone. This can be switched in the settings, and while using the Watch does impact battery life, we found a noticeable reduction in lag time between standing at your balls and getting a steady GPS distance.

The company has also added a live leaderboard feature to its iPhone app, which is a neat addition.

Naturally, there's a Premium tier, with things like shot tracking, and handicap calculation – although if you want to analyze and paid-for features, it might be worth looking down the list to 18Birdies.

But Hole19 is a superb free golf app for Apple Watch.

Free ($49.99/£49.99 for a year of Premium) | Download

Tag Heuer Golf app

Best Apple Watch golf apps

Tag Heuer launched its app alongside its special Tag Heuer Connected Golf Edition, and it's a thing of beauty. And what's more, it's available for Apple Watch.

It's an older app called Fun Golf GPS rebadged by Tag Heuer – and it's all about the snazzy visuals and course fly-pasts.

You need to pay the $39.99 annual subscription you can access the incredibly slick interactive 2D course maps and distances to the green and hazards. You get the distance to the green and hazards, shot measuring, scores and insights, and a real-time club recommendation feature.

There’s also the same on-device scoring, and you can have up to four buddies on your watch and keep a leaderboard of who’s winning. It will also handle Stableford scores as well.

There’s a shot measuring feature – and it all syncs back to the iPhone app – where a host of metrics about your game are stored and tracked. This includes performance over par 3s, par 4s, and par 5s – as well as estimated handicaps.

Many of the features here are on Hole 19 for free. But the quality of the mapping is so impressive that this is our top paid-for pick.

Free ($39.99 for premium features) | Download

18Birdies

18 birdies

18Birdies is easily the most feature-rich app on our list, and it's grown to offer way more than just scoring and analysis.

Firstly, it excels at scoring your game, with the ability to add strokes, fairways hit/missed, putts, chips, and greens in regulation, all from the wrist. And this can be done without signing up for a paid-for tier.

Weather, and its effect on your round, is a big part of the 18Birdies experience – and premium users can get personalized club recommendations, with things like wind, elevation, and even humidity factored in.

The Watch data view is slightly more crammed with information than Hole 19, though, which might not suit fat fingers. It's a much richer experience but does demand more of your attention.

The smartphone app is well-designed and filled with fun extra side games, and unlike Hole19, is well focused on other types of golf scoring, such as skins, matchplay, and Stableford. You can add your golf buddies to the app as well.

There's also a premium tier with club recommendations and advanced stats, which costs $99/£99 per year – by far the most expensive on our list.

This does offer AI coaching and swing recognition, so you can use it at the range and practice area as well as on the course.

The Premium level also included advanced analysis including shots gained, and there's a very nifty blind shot compass – to make sure you're shooting to the green when you're unsighted.

Free ($99/£99 for a year's Premium features) | Download

Golf Handicap Information Network (GHIN)

Best Apple Watch golf apps: knock shots off your handicap

If you're one of the 3 million users of the GHIN app, there's now a new Apple Watch integration.

Users of the shot tracking app which enables members of the USGA to track handicap information can now get live golf features on their Apple Watch.

You can get the standard distances to the front, middle, and back of the green, but also hazards and lay-ups.

Of course, the main draw to the GHIN app is the generation of a handicap, when playing different courses around the US. But the chance to get free Apple Watch golf app features makes the whole package even more compelling.

The GHIN app is only accessible if you're a member of a club that's part of the network – and still costs an extra $39.99 for the enhanced GPS services.

Free ($39.99 for a year's Premium features) | Download

Golf GPS SwingU

Golf GPS SwingU

One big feature of many of the new GPS golf watches is virtual caddie features – and this is also the focus of SwingU. The app does all the standard distance tracking and features some decent aerial photography of each hole in the iPhone app, but it's the shot tracking we like.

If you pay the $4.99 per month subscription you can log each club if you desire, which will build up a database of average distances and club performance over time. It will then start suggesting which club is right for you, and just like advanced Garmin Approach golf watches, will even augment the data with real-time wind direction and shot elevation. Impressive stuff.

Free ($4.99 per month for advanced shot tracking) | Download

Golf Game Book

Best Apple Watch golf apps

For those that live for the competition, Golf Game Book's app is focused on group scoring. You can create tournaments with real-time scoring – which isn't unique to Golf Game Book – but you can also view the leaderboard on your Apple Watch, with at-a-glance stroke-play scores for up to four players.

There's the standard range-finding aspect too, and you can input data on fairways hit/missed and putts taken. The app is nowhere near as slick as Hole 19 or 18Birdies, but the group scoring thing makes it well worth checking out.

Free | Download

GolfShot

Best Apple Watch golf apps

There's a lot more to the GolfShot platform than wrist-based distances, and it's one of the better services for booking tee times and working out handicaps. However, in terms of design, it does lag the competition, and we found it a little difficult to use.

The Apple Watch app itself offers a complete overview of the hole, which is unique to the app, and you can zoom in on the green – although it uses zoomed-in satellite imaging, which isn't of the best quality. We much preferred Fun Golf GPS's colorful imagery.

Free | Download